15 NHL Teams That Have Big Free Agent Decisions to Make
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The shortened 48-game season means that general managers and team administrators must start preparing for the 2013-14 season early.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement means that teams will have a salary cap of $64.3 million to contend with next year (source: CBC.ca).
Teams with significant free agents will be forced to make tough decisions with their personnel. They must decide who they want to offer contracts and who they will let walk away.
Here's a look at 15 teams—half the NHL teams—with at least six pending unrestricted free agents each.
(All contract and free-agent information is from CapGeek.com.)
1. Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks will have seven players from this year's roster who will be free agents this summer.
Those players include Manny Malhotra, Mason Raymond, Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre, Andrew Alberts and two other players earning less than $1 million.
However, it's not just a question of Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis deciding whom he wants to bring back and who he wants to pay. He must also make those decisions with an eye towards the future.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin will reach the end of their current contracts at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Any contract decisions that Gillis makes this offseason will also have an impact on the future.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks are off to a tremendous start in 2012-13 and head coach Bruce Boudreau has to be pleasantly surprised that his team is playing so consistently well.
However, general manager Bob Murray clearly has his work cut out for him at the end of the season. The Ducks have seven free agents on their roster and it's going to be quite difficult to keep this team together.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both earning $5.325 million this season and both will be free agents at the end of the season. Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will also be free agents at the end of the season and so will defenseman Toni Lydman and two other players earning less than $1 million this season.
If the Ducks are going to have any hope of contending in the future, Murray must find a way to keep Getzlaf and Perry. That's a difficult proposition, but the Ducks will have major issues without them.
3. Dallas Stars
General manager Joe Nieuwendyk is sick of his team missing the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars have not played postseason hockey since the 2007-08 season. Nieuwendyk brought in free agents Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney to get this team into the playoffs this year.
When the 2012-13 comes to an end, the Stars will have seven free agents on their roster.
Jagr is the most prominent free agent, but Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy, Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom will also be prominent free agents.
Keeping all of these players—especially Jagr—will be quite difficult.
4. Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are going to have a lot of issues next year.
While they are not strong contenders this year, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to have his hands full figuring out which direction he wants to go with his team.
The Jets will have seven free agents at the end of the season. Most are not hugely prominent players, but they are manning key roles for the Jets.
The most highly paid among the free agents is center Nik Antropov. The Jets are currently paying Antropov more than $4 million per season, and it may be difficult to bring him back. He scored 24 goals in 2009-10 with the Atlanta Thrashers, but his scoring has gone down each of the following seasons.
Having seven free agents this summer may give Cheveldayoff a chance to retool his team.
5. Phiadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren has much more to be concerned about besides his team's slow start this year.
The Flyers have significant problems on the defensive end and they also must contend with high-scoring forward Scott Hartnell's foot injury.
The Flyers will also have six free agents at the end of the season. Ruslan Fedotenko is earning $1.75 million this year and is the highest paid of those players.
Holmgren will almost certainly turn his attention to the blue line since veteran Chris Pronger (concussion) is not likely to play again and that's the team's biggest issue for the future (source: courierpostonline.com).
6. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks got off to one of the sharpest starts in the NHL this season when they won their first seven games.
It seemed like they were on a roll, but they have followed that hot streak by going 0-3-3 in their last six games.
General manager Doug Wilson has to figure out how to get the team going again in the right direction and he also has to contend with a slew of free agents.
The Sharks will have six players who will no longer be under contract at the end of the season. Forwards Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus, and defenseman Douglas Murray are the most prominent. The other free agents all earn less than $1 million this season.
In addition to figuring out his route in free agency, Wilson has to figure out when it will be time to trade its veteran talent and begin the rebuilding process.
7. Calgary Flames
Jarome Iginla is clearly the most important of the Flames' free agents. He is earning $7 million this season and even though he has been the symbol of the franchise for years, it may be time for general manager Jay Feaster to move him.
The Flames may play with maximum effort nearly every night, but they don't look like a strong playoff team. It's probably time to start the rebuilding process.
That does not mean re-signing the high-priced Iginla. That means moving him before the trade deadline.
Feaster will have five other free agents to consider, including defenseman Anton Babchuk.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
General manager Steve Yzerman will have six free agents on his roster at the end of the 2012-13 season.
However, this should not be a big problem for the Hall of Famer. Most of the free agents are depth players who are earning $1 million or less.
Backup goalie Mathieu Garon is earning $1.3 million this year and he is the highest- paid among the current crop of Tampa Bay free agents-to-be.
The Lightning have more than $6 million in cap space to make moves for the rest of the 2012-13 season if Yzerman wants to bring in additional talent.
9. Washington Capitals
Mike Ribeiro is earning $5 million for the Washington Capitals this season. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year.
Ribeiro is one of nine Capitals players who will be unrestricted free agents this summer.
Defensemen Roman Hamrlik, Tom Poti and John Erskine are the other Caps free agents who are earning more than $1 million this year.
General manager George McPhee has five other free agents on his roster who are earning less than $1 million this season.
10. Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are adjusting to life without Nicklas Lidstrom in 2012-13. They are in playoff contention and doing a solid job early in the season.
However, the Red Wings will have seven players who will become free agents at the end of the season, including Valtteri Filppula, Danny Cleary, Ian White and goalie Jimmy Howard. Filppula is the highest paid of the group with a salary of $3 million.
General manager Ken Holland has three other free agents who will be eligible to leave Detroit prior to the start of next season.
11. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes have a shot to win the Southeast Division this season after missing the playoffs the last three seasons.
However, after the 2012-13 season is over, general manager Jim Rutherford will have six free agents on his roster. Former Capital Alex Semin is earning $7 million this season and is the highest paid of the soon-to-be free agents.
Defenseman Joe Corvo and forward Chad LaRose are the only other Hurricanes free agents who are earning more than $1 million this season.
12. Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers have a slew of young, talented and exciting players who are under contract for the foreseeable future.
General manager Steve Tambellini does not have to worry about losing Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins any time soon.
However, the Oilers have nine players who will be free agents at the end of the season. The majority of these players are role players, but veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin ($3.75 million) and defenseman Ryan Whitney ($4 million) are also available.
13. New York Islanders
The recent acquisition of goalie Tim Thomas from the Boston Bruins (source: NYPost.com) means the New York Islanders will have 10 free agents at the end of the season.
The Islanders can choose to toll Thomas's contract, which would mean he would remain their employee if he does not report to the Islanders during the current season. They could also choose to let him leave the team via free agency at the end of the season.
Thomas is carrying a cap figure of $5 million this year even though he is not playing.
Some of the other prominent players under contract who will be free agents this summer include defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, Mark Streit and goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
14. Ottawa Senators
Daniel Alfredsson will be a free agent at the end of the season. He is earning $4.875 million this year. Alfredsson could retire at the end of the season or he could return to the Senators next year. However, he will have the opportunity to seek a new deal elsewhere if he chooses.
Veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar is earning $5.5 million this season. He will also be a free agent when the season comes to an end.
The Senators also have four other role players who will be free agents at the end of the season.
15. Phoenix Coyotes
The financially challenged Phoenix Coyotes have eight players who will be free agents at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Goalie Mike Smith keyed the Coyotes' playoff run last season and is earning $2 million this year. He will be free to seek a new deal next year. So will veterans Steve Sullivan ($2.6 million), Matthew Lombardi ($2 million) and Raffi Torres ($1.75 million).
The Coyotes have four other free agents.
The future of this franchise is quite cloudy, so it's difficult to say whether the Coyotes will be able to attempt to keep any of these players.